Fire, earth, metal, water, wood. In Chinese tradition, there is a yin and yang for each of these 5 elements, 10 in all, called stems. The 12 animals are known as the earthly branches. The stems & branches move in a cycle of 60 possible combinations. This is the Year of the Earth Ox, the second sign of the lunar calendar. It begins on January 26, 2009.
This year the earth element is said to have a yin energy, meaning level ground with moist soil. The ox represents endurance. Patient and tireless, bearing the burdens, doing the work. The metaphor is one of toil, plowing the fields and laying the groundwork for new growth. Words like practical, and purposeful, the ox is determined to make sacrifices and advance beyond obstacles to achieve goals.
In thinking about this ox year, an interesting image comes to mind during the transfer of presidential power. During the Inauguration, amidst the human energy and noise of its celebration, quickly, and without fanfare, a team of people at the White House worked diligently, methodically to do the practical work of moving boxes. Packing up what was there before, moving it away, and bringing in the new boxes. Their contents unpacked and set in place with a symphony of human rhythm, carefully planned and quietly executed within a matter of hours. This is the hidden dynamic, the work that lays a foundation. The work that makes other work possible. This is the energy of the ox – consistency, responsibility, labor, patience.
Here in the US, our new president was born in 1961, an ox year. With a metal element, this ox is not only about action, but words: words that are precisely chosen, their communication clear and eloquent. Their resoluteness may be steady or stubborn. This mantra: “I am a man of my word.”
If you do not put much store in Chinese cosmology, there is, at least, a metaphorical resonance with the current state of affairs. This is a time to live with less, to clear, plow and plant the yielding soil. These are the days of hard work and sacrifice. We are seeking patience in a difficult time. Many of us are struggling for survival and stability. It is a time to stay hungry, nurture seeds and dream of the harvest.
This is a quiet year of celebration. May it be a year of strength, courage and opportunity. Kung Hei Fat Choy!
TanDao/Toni Josephson & Lawrence Tan